Ruby red, golden orange or striped, always topped with deep green leaves, beets — or beetroot, as this vegetable is known in other parts of the English-speaking world — are among the most colorful members of the superfood crowd.
Beets' rich hues signal not only fresh flavor but a bonanza of health benefits from antioxidants, phytonutrients and carotenoids. Studies suggest beets also contain anti-inflammatory molecules that could have cancer-fighting properties.
Combine all these advantages with the sheer goodness of beets' buttery roots and chard-like leaves, and you have a vegetable that has earned its way onto the list of nutritional all-stars known as superfoods.
Cooked fresh from the farmers market or the produce department at your favorite store, beets and beet greens make colorful salads and side dishes. Dining out recently, you may even have noticed beet sprouts garnishing your plate: Chefs choose them for their bright color and tangy flavor.
But there's another way to enjoy the sweet taste and robust health benefits of beets, without tackling a fresh bunch from scratch.
Dried and powdered beet roots make an all-natural red food coloring you can use to deeply tint cookies, cakes and puddings, all the while adding beets' nutritional advantages and, by the way, sparing your kitchen from industrial food dyes.
Use powdered beets when you want rich color and a little extra sweetness with a hint of citrus tang. Try beet powder in red flannel cake, or to create a deep red icing. Make Christmas cookies with beet powder for festive flavor without factory-made chemicals.
To get started, drop by our Napa shop at the Oxbow Public Market for a couple of tablespoons of beet powder, and try this simple and delicious dessert: